Paul Handforth is confident his Batley side can topple defending Co-operative Championship title holders Halifax and progress through this year’s play-offs when they meet in Thursday’s Elimination Play-off at Mount Pleasant (7.30pm).
Batley have already beaten the champions twice in the league this season and, having helped guide Batley to their first title in 86 years when they won the Northern Rail Cup competition in 2010, Handforth believes his side can end this season with another trophy to their name.
“We’re very happy to be involved in the play-offs,” said Handforth. “For a club like Batley to finish third in the Championship is a big achievement, but it was one of the goals we set ourselves as a side at the start of the season.
“We said we wanted to finish in the top four and wanted to retain our Northern Rail Cup trophy. Obviously we failed with the Northern Rail, but we’ve got a massive opportunity now in the league and have secured a home play-off, which is what we wanted.
“After we won the Northern Rail Cup in 2010 we sort of imploded and we lost a lot of momentum, but that experience made us even more determined coming into this season and all the lads are hungry to win.
“We showed by winning in Blackpool last year that we can be a force to be reckoned with and if anyone takes us lightly we can upset the odds.
By finishing third, Batley secured a home play-off tie but Handforth knows things do not get much tougher than taking on the defending champions in the first knock-out contest.
“There are no easy games in the competition at this stage and Halifax are a really good side with quality throughout the squad,” he said. “They’re one of the best sides in the competition and they’re one of the best teams in knock-out competitions – you only have to look at what they’ve done to Featherstone to see that.
“We know that in order to win we have to beat the best teams and it’s doesn’t get much tougher than starting against the defending champions.
“We’ve had a few weeks off to rest and we’ll be going into the game refreshed and we’ve also had the experience of winning and the experience of being in the latter stages of competitions and that’s good experience to have as it will help us going into Thursday’s game.
“But I’m confident we can go out there and get the result – like Karl Harrison said; ‘The real start to our season is now’.”